‘We’re very clear about our positioning. We are the influencers’ channel.’

Q&A with Sriram Kilambi, president – Bloomberg TV India, on the English business news genre, Bloomberg’s USP, CNBC TV18 and more. Edited Excertps:

‘We’re very clear about our positioning. We are the influencers’ channel.’

How has the year 2012 panned out for Bloomberg TV India?

The channel went through a bit of up and down. A few important things which happened in the year - first of those of course, was the name change from Bloomberg -UTV to Bloomberg TV. Second is that we were able to grow every quarter and are ending the year very strongly.

But revenue-wise, is the growth story looking good?

Revenue is slightly subdued, which is the case across companies in the industry. Although we’ve shown growth in every quarter, if you look at it from the standpoint of the whole year, things are looking slightly down.

Would you blame the slowdown for that?

25 to 30 per cent of all advertising on business channels come from the financial services sector. And, as we all are aware, the financial services sector is the one that gets most affected by a slowdown. This year we saw the economy slowing down, so we had to get advertisers from other categories on board.

What are the other sectors that advertised on the channel?

Typically five sectors that advertise on business news channels are financial services, automobile, consumer durables, telecom and corporate (campaigns). If you look at the number of seconds advertised on business news genre this year – they’ve been lower than last year and that’s true of all verticals, not just business news. Interestingly, sectors such as real estate and retail have bounced back and we’re seeing fair amount of advertising coming from there. 

CNBC TV 18 is strong competition and is seen as the market leader. How are you as a channel catching up?

CNBC is a stock market channel internationally and in India as well. They tell you what stocks to sell, what stocks to buy, and how to approach the market from a trading point of view. Bloomberg is the influencers’ channel. So the guys who watch Bloomberg have a lot of money and they’re not looking to trade on a daily basis. You will not see buy, sell and stuff like that on Bloomberg ever. 

But CNBC TV18 has a larger audience base and is the number one channel in the domain...

There are a lot of traders in Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh who’re watching a certain channel. So from an advertising standpoint, it really doesn’t make sense for a channel like ours to be catering to that audience. We’re very clear about our positioning. We are the influencers’ channel. We believe that with our kind content, our kind of delivery, our kind of look and feel, it is a premium channel. And we expect to be watched by premium audiences. Our content is our business. We’re the only guys who’ve touched extensive lifestyle features, news features; our news itself is differentiated. Shows like The Assignment and Pitch (to name a couple) are different. We’re looking for help from the industry to keep it going, but we’re very clear on what we want to do.

Are you available on all DTH platforms?

We are available on all DTH and digital cable networks except Sun Direct. 

Did the rebranding help the channel in any form?

It gave us the impetus to state how different we are. It made a lot of big guys in the industry to notice of us. And the rebranding has also coincided with a lot more integration with the international channel. So you’ll see a lot more of Bloomberg international on the India channel and there will be a lot more of Bloomberg India on the Bloomberg international channel. We’re perhaps the most global of all business channels and that’s what premium audiences are looking for. 

What is the next big thrust on the channel?

It’s going to remain content, because that’s always been an important factor for us as we’re a premium channel. We have a very stable editorial team. The vision is very clear within the channel on where we want to be.

The Outsider, for example, was a big show for us. It did very well. We ended that show with Pervez Musharaff and Jaswant Singh debating Kashmir. From a news point of view, we have a new show called ‘In Business’, where instead of having a trader on the channel, we have a CEO - so we have the CEO’s take on how the market is doing, because at the end of the day those are the guys who are the final decision makers. And we’re launching third season of The Pitch and The Assignment.   

What is the thought process behind shows such as The Pitch and The Assignment?

With these two shows, our aim is to get new viewers to the channel; people who are not typically business news watchers.  We have news features such as Court Room, which is the only show that goes to courts, law firms, senior advocates etc. talking about the business of law. Then there are strategy features that talk about what’s happening in top companies of the country, who are the game changers and what strategies they adopt. Then we have lifestyle features. So the idea is to get new viewers on board with shows such as The Pitch and The Assignment and then sample our entire content offering to that new audience and see if they could stick to the channel for longer durations.

How aggressive are you in terms of marketing spends?

We make huge investments on marketing. We’re at a stage where we need to invest more and we’re doing that for all our shows. 

Since you cater to a premium audience, are you a believer in TAM ratings?

A TAM number is only one of the numbers that I look at while evaluating the performance of the channel.  And I think the industry understands that -  media planners and marketers understand that. So there is no point slicing and dicing data. In the English business news genre, there are only two products available – Bloomberg and CNBC.  Remaining few (channels) are clones of CNBC and are not doing anything different. We’re a very different channel, and honestly, our aim is to make a positive impact on the economy of India in our own little way. I’m saying that because we’re in the eye of the influential viewer.

 

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8 August 2014